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Ministry announces measures to improve battery, smartphone safety 2017-02-06

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) has concluded through its own investigation that the battery problem in manufacturing processes may have caused fires in Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, it said in a press release on Monday.

In its efforts to prevent the recurrence of similar accidents and to enhance protection of consumers, the Ministry will strengthen the safety rules for new technology-based lithium-ion batteries in the phrase of production and as well as the smart phone recall system. 

The investigation by the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS), an affiliate of the MOTIE, found the combination of flaws in battery design and manufacturing processes were highly likely to cause fires, while no particular abnormalities were observed in the smartphone devices.

In the testing of damaged batteries distributed after Samsung Electronics’ second recall of Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, for instance, KATS found damages by fire in the negative electrode close to the positive tab in a considerable number of batteries.

The Korean Agency for Technology and Standards also looked into potential fire-causing factors within the smartphone device such as the power circuit, battery protection circuit module, external pressure, and battery space within the device, but didn’t find abnormalities.

The Ministry concluded that those accidents could have been prevented if battery manufacturers and smartphone makers had strengthened the product production process control and product quality management.

In order to prevent such accidents from recurring, the government will upgrade the system that checks any problems in battery production processes, while improving the safety control system for smart phones before their market launch and the smart phone recall system.

To strengthen safety control for new technology-based lithium-ion batteries, the government will seek to require manufacturers to have the safety of those batteries certified in the process of production, not just checked. This policy will be effective for a limited period of five years in its bid not to delay the swift introduction of innovative (battery) technology in the market.

The government will also introduce more types of testing and request sample products from manufacturers when they are needed. To implement these measures, the Ministry plans to amend the enforcement decree of the Electrical Appliances and Consumer Products Safety Control Act by October this year.

In the course of upgrading the regulatory framework to ensure product safety, the Ministry stressed that it will closely consult with the industry and consumer organizations to minimize the influence of increased regulatory rules on market competition.

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